The human players have

only a one-handed grip on the
reins and the strength of their
own legs to keep them from
falling from a horse moving
25 to 35 mph.
Fans such as Ray Weaver
say the game play and the
environment provide a per-
fect backdrop for a Sunday
“It’s a beautiful setting
there at Forney Field,” said
Weaver, a Wyomissing resi-
dent and patron (that’s po-
lo-speak for season-ticket
holder). “The field is lined
with trees, and there’s farm-
land all around.”
Weaver was invited to his
first polo match by a Berks
County friend about 20 years
ago and suddenly had the urge
to go back in 2009. He’s been
a patron each year since, at-
tending about half the games
along with his wife, Heidi.
In addition to the action on
the field, spectators at Lan-
caster are treated to special
events ranging from classic
British car shows (Aug. 24) to
chili cook-ofs (Sept. 28). Brief
breaks between chukkers call
for the traditional stomping
of the divots, clumps of grass
that need to be tamped down
so the horses can keep their
footing when play resumes.
Fans throw Frisbees and foot-
balls as grooms whisk away
horses for cool down and
bring fresh mounts to the
playing field.
Tailgating contests also
create a festive environment
that encourages fans to make
friends. It’s a place where
the T-shirt-and-jeans crowd
mixes comfortably with fans
who enjoy sipping champagne
during play.
“That’s what makes us so
unique,” said club Secretary
Anna Reinhart, who is also
Vidal’s mother. “You get a
little of everybody, and no-
body looks down their nose
at anybody else.”
Weaver said the sights are
different at each match. A
given Sunday could attract
Amish fans who arrive by bike
or lead to a random bagpipe
performance from the specta-
tor sitting next to you. Fans
are also likely to be treated
to a high-scoring game. There
are no goalies in polo, and
scores often climb into the
double digits. Weaver recalled
a game two or three years ago
in which Lancaster trailed
by as many as nine goals but
managed to eke out the come-
from-behind win in the last
In polo, each player carries
his own handicap rating, rang-
ing from minus-2 for begin-
ners to 10 for the most elite
professionals. For a match,
each team’s player ratings
are averaged, so that a team
with an average rating of 2
isn’t forced to compete with
a level 6 team.
Lancaster usually hosts
matches between teams with
an average of 2, a level Rein-
hart describes as on the cusp
of professional play.
Reinhart was riding horses
at boarding school 25 years
ago when her school’s polo
team put on a clinic. She was
hooked. She played consis-
tently with Lancaster over
the last 10 years and holds a
0 rating. She was forced off
the field last year after being
kicked by a new horse, and
this year she sufered a seri-
ous leg injury using a fence
to boost herself atop her pony
during the season opener.
While recovering, Reinhart
has been enjoying the patron’s
point of view, partaking in a
tailgating competition — her
decorations included hun-
dreds of pounds of sand —
and cheering on friends she’s
played with and against over
the years.
Because Lancaster draws
players from across the Mid-
Atlantic, a Delaware or Mary-
land player sometimes may be
thrown onto the local team.
The crowd tends to favor
anyone playing for Lancast-
er, honoring each goal with a
round of blaring car horns.
“It’s very laid-back at the
club level,” said Reinhart, 41.
“It’s a fun kind of competitive.
Everybody is friendly with ev-
erybody else.”
Novice players are welcome
(there is no cost for new mem-
bers), and the club will match
those with no playing experi-
ence with a local instructor.
Lancaster needs to grow
its player base. Though club
officials estimate a typical
match draws a crowd of 1,500
to 2,000, player turnout is
sometimes so low that teams
are forced to take the field for
3-on-3 matches.
There is no minimum age;
a recent Go-Pro video taken
from Vidal’s helmet shows
the action in a game featuring
him and a 14-year-old from
The United States Polo
Association also is trying to
broaden the sport’s appeal,
launching a marketing cam-
paign based on the idea that
anyone can learn to play. The
association’s online PoloSkilz
network ofers training videos
and tips from polo all-stars,
coaches and former players.
The association also supports
clinics for players from mid-
dle-school age to adult.
Polo requires each player
to bring several horses to a
match; even the healthiest
thoroughbreds can’t sustain
high-speed play for more than
a couple of chukkers per game.
Reinhart admitted that’s an
obstacle for recruits, but
added that some members
of the polo community act as
patrons for up-and-coming
players. Others gain entry by
riding older, less-expensive
A lifelong athlete, Greg
Leppien of Sinking Spring
has taken two lessons with
Reinhart. He plans to borrow
playing ponies from friends
and hopes to debut in a chuk-
ker late this season.
So far, he’s working to con-
vert his trail-riding experi-
ence into the quick, controlled
movements needed during a
polo match.
“It’s honestly one of the
hardest sports I’ve ever at-
tempted to get into,” Leppien
said. “There are so many vari-
Contact Kimberly Marselas: life@

300 yards
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The United States Polo Association says the sport’s origins are unknown, 
but it is believed to have started in Persia or Central Asia about 2,000 years 
ago. One of the first recorded tournaments took place around 600 B.C., with 
the first English game in 1869, followed by the first U.S. tournament in 1876.
Polo mallets range from 49 to 54 inches long and are available in several 
weights and shapes. The heads, used for striking the ball, usually are made of 
ash wood or maple. Unlike in croquet, players use the long side of the mallet 
to strike a polo ball.
Some players prefer a mallet with more "whippiness," or flexibility, in the 
mallet’s shaft. The shafts are made from a cane related to the palm tree, while 
the mallet heads are cut from Tipa trees found only in Argentina, Brazil and 
Spurs and whips:
Spurs can be attached to loops fitted to the traditional brown polo boot. The 
spurs are rounded to protect the pony from injury. Equestrian polo whips have 
leather handles and straps that make them easy to grip while playing.
The field:
A regulation polo field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, or the area of 
about nine American football fields. The Lancaster field is about 80 percent of 
that size, and lined with red 
sideboards that keep the ball from 
rolling out of play and keep 
spectators in the viewing area. Each 
goal is 8 yards wide, with posts  
usually covered in foam to protect 
ponies and riders.
About polo
Sources: United States Polo Association,, Anna Reinhart,
The ball:
Made of hard, solid plastic, a polo ball is between 3 
and 3½ inches in diameter and weighs 3½ to 4½ ounces. 
Older polo balls were made of wood and created a 
whistling sound as they moved through the air. The sound 
helped players avoid being hit, but the balls often split. Plastic balls 
rarely split, but they become misshapen every time they are struck. 
Umpires and flagmen replace them as needed, going through as many as 
two dozen balls in a match.
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Polo matches attract players, fans from Berks County
[ From D1 >>> ]
Nick Vidal, 16, of Robeson Township works on his form.
Harnesses in the tack room.
Greg Leppien of Sinking Spring, who is new to the sport, works on
his polo form with Anna Reinhart of Robeson Township.
A polo helmet.
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